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Toys from 150 Years Ago

Scouring toy catalogs and selecting their favorites is a holiday tradition for some children. We took a look in our collections to see what children might have selected in 1868. As you might expect, toys from 1868 are quite different from 21st Century toys. This trade catalog gives us a glimpse into playtime for children in 1868. Even though at first glance these toys appear rather simple compared to those of today, more »

The Fix – FAO Schwarz 1911 Toy Catalog

New York at Christmas time evokes many memories but as a child it meant a visit to FAO Schwarz, the oldest toy store in the United States. When a 1911 catalog from the famed toy store landed in the Book Conservation Lab it was like an early Christmas present!

Hopefully Baby Got Out of This For A few Minutes . . .

It’s Baby Safety Month, and parents of every era have wanted furniture and gadgets that are safe for their children to use and enjoy.

Why a Bear?

The "Pop-up" Cinderella: including Hansel and Gretel, Goldilocks and the three bears, Puss-in-boots, 1933. Today is Teddy Bear Day. Teddy bears are such a normal part of our childhood that it's surprising to realize that they have only been "standard" since the last century: The name Teddy Bear comes from former United States President Theodore Roosevelt, whose nickname was "Teddy". The name originated from an incident on a bear-hunting trip in Mississippi in November 1902 . . . A suite of Roosevelt's attendants, led by Holt Collier,[1] cornered, clubbed, and tied an American Black Bear to a willow tree after a long exhausting chase with hounds. They called Roosevelt to the site and suggested that he should shoot it. He refused to shoot the bear himself, deeming this unsportsmanlike,[2] but instructed that the bear be killed to put it out of its misery[citation needed], and it became the topic of a political cartoon by Clifford Berryman in The Washington Post on November 16, 1902.[3] While the initial cartoon of an more »

Circus Fun

A.  Schoenhut Co., Philadelphia, PA.  Illustrations of Schoenhut’s Marvelous Toys, circa 1908, clown figures. Have you been to the circus lately?  Well, here comes the Humpty Dumpty Circus—made up of toy figurines that children in the early 1900s could play with to create their own small circus.  The circus figures are shown in this circa 1908 trade catalog by A. Schoenhut Co. titled Illustrations of Schoenhut’s Marvelous Toys. According to the catalog’s front cover, the toy circus figures can do “10001 Astonishing Tricks.”  Inside the catalog, page after page shows the positions that the Humpty Dumpty Circus figures can be placed in and balanced.  A clown balancing on top of two ladders, a clown dancing with a horse, and a clown standing on his head while balancing a ladder on his feet are just some of the many unusual tricks that the Humpty Dumpty Circus figures are able to do. The clowns are named Humpty, Dumpty, and Cracker-Jack.  There are also circus animals—an elephant, horse, zebra, giraffe, and others.  To more »

Happy Birthday, Barbie!

Barbie was first introduced on March, 9, 1959. Since then she has been the subject of little kids' fantasies, role-play, feminist studies, and all-out consumerism.  She has been everything from a teen model to an ancient Greek princess, fictional character Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, astronaut, and as of 2000, even President of the United States.  As much as some criticize her sometimes unrealistic proportions (depends on the doll—lately Barbie's waist seems to have thickened a bit and her bust reduced somewhat on some editions), Barbie is a blank slate upon which children and even adults, (especially the collectors that have formed around the doll in the past 50 years) can project their aspirations.  With kids playing with President Barbie, the dream becomes reality, and maybe the first female President of the United States is not so far away. Not a bad image for Women's History Month. Rock on, Barbie! —Elizabeth Periale The Libraries has many items in its collections relating to the history, collectibility, and possible voodoo connections of more »

It’s Candy…and a Toy!

Ever wonder how candy was made in the nineteenth century? An 1874 catalog from Thomas Mills & Brother entitled Descriptive and Illustrated Catalogue of Goods advertises a machine which made Candy Toys. It was called the Mills’ Excelsior Toy Machine and was patented on September 1, 1868. The machine cost $500 and had the ability to make 500 to 1000 pounds of candy toys each day. The candy toys could be made in 33 different patterns including a ship, rocking horse, and train as well as a number of animals, such as a dog, lion, camel, or elephant.  More catalogs showing the confectionery machinery of Thomas Mills & Brother of Philadelphia, PA can be found in the Trade Literature Collection at the National Museum of American History Library. The Libraries also has additional images from this catalog and other items from its trade literature collection on flickr. Enjoy!—Alexia MacClain

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